Poutine – classic Canadian fare?

Every September I spend time promoting the goodness of eggs in the Egg Farmers of Ontario’s (EFO) booth at the Western Fair in London, Ontario and at the Plowing Match in ‘wherever’, Ontario.

The location of the Plowing Match (an outdoor agricultural show) changes every year. This year it was held in Teeswater. The only constant about the location is that the site will be a farmer’s field somewhere in the province. Oh yeah, and it will likely rain before or during the Plowing Match, turning that farmer’s field into a muddy mess and making it mandatory to have a vehicle with four-wheel drive to get on and off the site, and rubber boots to tramp around the site. This year was no exception, at least at the start of the week!

I’ve been going to the Western Fair and the Plowing Match for more years than I’d care to acknowledge. Thankfully, food choices have improved over the years. Where once you could just eat typical fair food like burgers, fries, pizza and chicken fingers, a selection of more wholesome choices are now options. This year in the Western Fair’s International Food and Travel Building, you could dine on pad thai, spring rolls, samosas, stir-fried vegetables, cabbage rolls, stuffed peppers, butter chicken and rice, and more.

At both events, however, the most popular choice still seemed to be fries. I’ll confess I also indulged – fish and chips at the Western Fair, and poutine (pronounced poo-TIN) at the Plowing Match.

Poutine - fries, cheese and gravy!

Poutine is a much-loved messy, mushy combination of french fries and cheddar cheese curds smothered in gravy. The dish had its origins in Quebec, although there is not unanimous agreement as to exactly where, when, why and how poutine became a diner’s delight. Similar dishes exist in other countries.

Some people consider poutine quintessential Canadian fare. Others go so far as to hail it as our national dish! Personally, I doubt that the majority of Canadians outside of Quebec have even eaten this triple combination, let alone would rank it as classic Canadian food.

I had only eaten poutine once before last week when I chose it for my lunch one day at the Plowing Match – in the name of research for this blog, of course. And, because as I stood in line at the Chez Guy food tent pondering what to order for lunch, it looked darn tasty! So I succumbed to temptation.

I had to stifle a gasp when the cashier asked for $6 for my potentially heart attack-inducing lunch. With my overflowing tub of fries, cheese and gravy and cheese in hand, I scurried off, head down, so as not to meet the gaze of anyone who might recognize me as the EFO nutritionist – the same person who had cautioned them (probably minutes earlier at the EFO booth!) that a diet high in saturated and trans fats could cause elevated blood cholesterol.

I headed for a quiet corner of the Plowing Match to sit and eat my ‘triple threat’ lunch. I first took a few pictures, then forked a mouthful of the gooey mess into my mouth. Sadly, the gravy and fries were no longer hot. I still managed to down about a third of the generous portion, then decided it was probably wise to consider my research complete. I did conclude that although lukewarm and rather salty, poutine was a tasty combo. I could understand how it could be an addictive indulgence.

Tip/Warning/Alert/All-Points Bulletin/Advice……whatever you want to call it! Please note: For the sake of your waistline and overall health, don’t become a poutine addict. I highly recommend not indulging too often. Why not? Consider the following example of the nutritional value of poutine when compared to what’s recommended for an adult consuming a 2,000 calorie diet.

The regular size portion (320 g) of poutine at New York Fries contains the following:
* 950 calories
* 50 g Fat (77% of the recommended daily intake)
* 13 g Saturated and 1 g Trans Fats (70% of the recommended daily intake)
* 1320 mg Sodium (55% of the recommended daily intake)

If you are curious to learn more about poutine, check out this CBC video. It first aired in 1991, but it’s still an interesting clip. There are also websites devoted to poutine recipes including variations of the original combination of gravy, cheese and fries. Here are a couple:

* Montreal Poutine
* National Post – poutine recipes from Bonnie Stern

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